You have seen the paediatrician, the neurodevelopmental paediatrician, and at least an occupational therapist (OT), and all agree your child has sensory processing disorder (SPD).
The next step is to discuss an appropriate treatment plan with your child’s paediatrician. Keep the neurodevelopmental paediatrician’s report handy as it will probably contain a list of suggested interventions. Most likely your child’s paediatrician (and your child’s neurodevelopmental paediatrician) will recommend visits to an OT - likely the same OT that helped diagnose your child as he/she was recommended by your child’s paediatrician in the first instance.
Ask your paediatrician to phone the OT to inform him/her of your decision to place your precious sprout under their care. This makes the OT accountable to you, as well as your child’s paediatrician and I found that this cements the close relationship you need to foster amongst your Team of Experts.
Occupational Therapy is hands down the most effective treatment for SPD (provided the OT is trained and experienced in the field of Sensory Integration (SI)). Your OT will advise you on the frequency and length of your visits based on your child’s unique requirements. I write “unique requirements”, because apart from their need for sensory integration, children with SPD tend to have low muscle tone and weak cores. These are also treated during Occupational Therapy sessions.
Hein-Chris started with weekly, 45-minute sessions for the first year and a half of Occupational Therapy straight after his diagnoses, and then twice weekly sessions the year after. He is now back to weekly, 45-minute sessions, and all indications are that these will continue for at least the next two years.
Occupational Therapy is certainly not a quick fix. The magic of Occupational Therapy happens gradually over many years, but once it takes effect, the results are astounding. In our case - for instance - Hein-Chris’ vestibular system (associated with movement) was hugely compromised and extremely immature. It took almost two years to get him used to the OT’s swings - swings that posed a huge challenge to his vestibular system. I found, however, that once his vestibular system matured and the anxiety associated with movement subsided, all his other senses followed suite, and sensory defensiveness started a slow, universal decline. Tactile defensiveness (touch), auditory sensitivities (ears), fear of unfamiliar places and situations, and sensitivity to light and smells (eyes and nose), all seemed to improve markedly. My conclusion is: Your child’s vestibular system is the portal to the rest of his/her senses. Help your child’s OT, in whichsoever manner, to get that vestibular system working properly. If the OT recommends a home-based programme in conjunction with weekly or bi-weekly Occupational Therapy sessions, make sure to follow it religiously.
Apart from Occupational Therapy, discuss Educational Kinesiology and possibly also Play Therapy facilitated by a clinal psychologist, with your child’s paediatrician. Chances are he/she will ask you to wait a few months, even years, before calling on these professionals. It is likely your paediatrician wants to see how your child responds to Occupational Therapy before introducing other forms of intervention. This is quite reasonable. If you feel strongly that your child needs more than Occupational Therapy, voice this and I am confident your paediatrician will be open-minded enough to listen to your argument and assist you as best he/she can to identify the right professionals to treat your child.
In Hein-Chris’ case, he started weekly kinesiology sessions two years after starting OT and Play Therapy sessions (facilitated by two clinical psychologists) the next. Currently he visits his OT, his kinesiologist and his psychologists once weekly.
Clearly your child’s Team of Experts will play a significant role in his/her life for anything from two to five (even more in certain cases) years after being diagnosed. Keeping your Team of Experts (with your trusted paediatrician at the core) well-informed about your child’s progress is crucial, and entirely your responsibility. You need to circulate (via email most likely) all quarterly/annual evaluation reports, progress reports, school reports, etc. among the entire team. You will - for instance - send your quarterly OT progress report to your child’s paediatrician, neurodevelopmental paediatrician, educational kinesiologist, and whomever else is involved in your child’s treatment/therapy (i.e., speech therapist, psychologist, physiotherapist, etc.) depending on his/her needs.
You will probably visit your paediatrician and neurodevelopmental paediatrician at least once a year to discuss your child’s progress and ensure your child’s treatment plan remains relevant given his/her progress (or maybe lack thereof) over the past year. In Hein-Chris’ case we visited his neurodevelopmental paediatrician twice a year, and his paediatrician as and when we deemed it necessary.